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Chemical Equipment Operators

At a Glance

  • Control the flow of chemicals through production equipment
  • Clean and maintain equipment
  • Work indoors
  • Have a low level of social interaction
  • Often work day, evening, or night shifts
  • Train on the job

Career summary

Chemical equipment operators control the flow of chemicals through production equipment.

Workers in these occupations may also be called chemical equipment controllers and operators, or chemical equipment tenders.

#From 5918 Chemical and Rubber Processing Occupations

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Chemical equipment operators begin a new production cycle by reading the list of ingredients and the processing instructions. They weigh or measure the proper amount of each chemical needed for the product.

Operators set and adjust gauges, timers, and other controls that regulate the processing. These controls adjust the feed and flow of liquids and gases through equipment. They make sure that each ingredient is added in the correct order.

While the chemicals are being processed, operators monitor the equipment. They watch gauges, meters, and panel lights that indicate the temperature and pressure. They often keep a log of this data.

Operators also test samples of the product during various stages of production. They use equipment, such as pH meters, to test samples and determine if the product is being processed properly. When they find problems, operators contact supervisors.

When a production cycle is complete, operators clean the equipment. They drain equipment and pump water through it. Operators also perform basic maintenance on the equipment. They lubricate parts and replace parts that wear out frequently.

Operators also monitor the work area for leaks or malfunctioning equipment. They discuss repairs with the maintenance staff.

Equipment operators keep track of raw materials used in production. Some operators supervise several machines or processes in addition to supervising workers.

Related careers

This career is part of the Manufacturing cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to chemical equipment operators.

Common work activities

Chemical equipment operators perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, chemical equipment operators:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Chemical equipment operators frequently:

It is important for chemical equipment operators to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for chemical equipment operators to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Chemical equipment operators need to:


Reason and problem solve

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Work with things

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a chemical equipment operator, you typically need to:

Education after high school

No formal education is required beyond high school. Some operators earn an associate degree in chemical technology. These programs teach you the principles of chemistry, computer applications, and lab research methods.

On-the-job training

Most chemical equipment operators learn their skills on the job from an experienced worker. As a new worker, you begin with simple tasks, such as helping other operators. As you gain experience, you learn to operate equipment. It can take up to a year to become familiar with the most complex equipment.

Helpful high school courses

You should take a general high school curriculum that meets the state's graduation requirements. You will be required to take both math and science classes to graduate.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Most employers require at least a high school diploma or equivalent. Applicants also must be at least 18 years old. Some employers require one or two years of training beyond high school in chemistry and math. Many employers prefer people who have related experience in manufacturing plants. Employers look for people who have some knowledge of mechanical equipment.

Many employers require applicants to take drug-screening tests.

Some chemical equipment operators are hired from inside the plant. They may have been assistants who worked hard and showed an interest in learning more.

Employers also look for workers who have a positive attitude and are safety conscious.


Rubber and chemical plants are modernizing or automating through the use of computers. Some computer familiarity may be helpful. Most companies will continue to train and retrain workers on the job.

Costs to workers

Union workers must pay an initiation fee and monthly dues.

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Chemical equipment operators and tenders (SOC 51-9011)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $14.76 $17.35 $21.02 $25.33 $31.31
Monthly $2,558 $3,007 $3,643 $4,390 $5,426
Yearly $30,700 $36,080 $43,720 $52,690 $65,120
    Longview Hourly $14.60 $32.88 $43.29 $48.27 $51.52
Monthly $2,530 $5,698 $7,502 $8,365 $8,928
Yearly $30,354 $68,401 $90,039 $100,388 $107,156
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $16.22 $18.05 $21.35 $25.12 $29.38
Monthly $2,811 $3,128 $3,700 $4,353 $5,092
Yearly $33,734 $37,556 $44,405 $52,251 $61,111
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly $13.87 $17.48 $22.41 $26.68 $29.90
Monthly $2,404 $3,029 $3,884 $4,624 $5,182
Yearly $28,858 $36,366 $46,617 $55,479 $62,184
    Vancouver Hourly $13.06 $14.86 $18.39 $24.30 $32.08
Monthly $2,263 $2,575 $3,187 $4,211 $5,559
Yearly $27,173 $30,904 $38,253 $50,549 $66,718
United States Hourly $13.96 $17.67 $23.45 $30.47 $37.34
Monthly $2,419 $3,062 $4,064 $5,280 $6,471
Yearly $29,050 $36,750 $48,770 $63,380 $77,660

Wages vary by employer and area of the country. The operator's level of responsibility also affects wages.

Chemical equipment operators who work full time usually receive benefits. Typical benefits include sick leave, paid vacation, and health insurance.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook


The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Chemical Equipment Operators and Tenders (SOC 51-9011)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 1,410 10.4% 16.1% 188
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 197 14.7% 15.2% 28
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 38 2.6% 14.1% 4
    King County 67 16.4% 19.6% 10
    Snohomish County 73 50.7% 12.4% 18
United States 84,400 -4.9% 5.2% 9,000

National employment

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand is declining for this occupation. Competition from manufacturers in other countries is growing stronger. Some companies will move their operations to other countries to reduce costs. Farmers are also using fewer agricultural chemicals. However, reduced demand will be partially offset by demand for these chemicals by farmers in other countries.

Despite the decline in the number of jobs, openings will occur as current operators retire or leave this occupation for other reasons.

Other resources

American Chemistry Council (external link)
700 Second Street NE
Washington, DC 20002
Washington Business Week (external link)
PO Box 1170
Renton, WA 98057


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupations

Holland occupational clusters